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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Morality of Deception

This morning our dog got loose from her harness during our morning walk. After several attempts to grab her before she got to busier streets, I reversed my strategy and started walking back toward our house. Katie, a Beagle-Jack Russell, is often craftier than I, so I wondered if this time I could trick her into coming home. She absolutely avoids any attempt to get hold of her -- it's a game she loves to play.

Her smile of joy and discovery at her freedom from leash and harness was obvious. But as I headed home, she bounded back too, keeping just enough distance from me as to escape any grabs I made for her collar. When we reached our house, I headed for the back yard, leaving the wooden gate open. She stopped in the neighbor's yard, watching me. And here's when I began the real deceptions: I went through a litany of names of her favorite people and dog friends among our family, as if I saw them in the back yard, greeting them in a very loud voice. Finally curiosity and excitement got the upper hand and she ran into the yard while I tried to shut the gate before she realized the underhanded ploy. Close, but successful.

I tried to make the best of it for her as she kept looking for all those wonderful people and dog friends. Explaining that they must not be here after all, I praised her extensively for coming home, and we went in where I fixed her breakfast. That was tricky, because the back door was still locked and I had to go out the gate again to the front door, but I was successful. The last time I looked at her, she still seemed a bit miffed at my trick . . .

So was the act of deception immoral, or was I enacting the deceit in order to bring about a greater good? The jury of one, Katie, has not let me know at this point, but because our four-legged companions are more forgiving than we two-leggeds can be, I'm betting on her letting me off the hook this time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Is Its Own Reward

Today I read an article by Parker Palmer addressing the writer's calling and the skills required, as he has experienced it (Christian Century, Sept. 7, 2010). His comments added another layer to the subject of writing as a calling, which has been something I've pondered over for the past several months. I ask myself if it is a legitimate reason for moving away from overt activism and devoting time to my writing. The votes aren't all in yet, but I believe the answer will be a strong Yes.

I never was very good at vigils or marches. My legs grew weary, my muscles began to ache, I was either very cold or very hot, or even very wet on rainy days. My concentration waned as my physical condition became more pronounced. Yet it was possible to write a poem or an article or letter to the paper voicing strong opinions (which often got me into trouble!), and my old bones did not ache from the effort. Sometimes words are as powerful in their way as actions, I have concluded.

My decision to move in the direction of the computer vs. the street has been a source of satisfaction and fulfillment so far for me, and I find as each day passes, the layer of guilt that nearly suffocated me at times for letting go of so many fine causes through my active participation has thinned out to mere gauze. Still there, but it does not nag. I think this is one of the unstated points Parker Palmer was making in his article: that we allow our words to be instruments for good.

This wrestling with the "to be or to do" dilemma now brings me to the first of what I hope to be an effective effort to draw attention to the evils of our world and push us to adopt new attitudes, through the power of the written word. This, in point, is my book Rachel's Children: Surviving the Second World War, due out very soon by All Things That Matters Press. I was drawn to that publisher at first because of the name, and have since discovered what a wonderful caring and professional group they are who work there. Deb and Phil Harris, the publishers, have many credits to show for their efforts, and they have developed a sense of community surrounding their authors to bolster our spirits and provide good advice on marketing what we have written. So I look forward now with great excitement to seeing my very own book put together collaboratively by them and by me, in its design.

To write about the consequences of war, Rachel's Children is a document that required a lot of discipline by me to stay on topic. Contributors brought varied perspectives to their stories. History was expressed in personal ways that a broad and academic study of such a war might overlook in the attempt to present sweeping accounts of strategy and statistics. These collected stories are what happened to children who now as adults remember that time in retrospect and wisdom gained from that experience.

To illustrate, here is an excerpt from the book explaining the background for the book:

"Children are repositories of the world’s memories. In times of war, they absorb through their senses the tastes, smells, sounds, sights and feel of fear, of terror, of violence, of the deepest pangs of hunger. These memories sink deep into the very cells of their small bodies, to affect them years later in a variety of expressions. The stories contained in this collection reflect the memories of those who spent their childhood in the turbulent times of what is commonly known as World War II. For many, the experience was one which defined loss for them: Of family members, of pets, of homes, or simply of a way of life which had seemed safe and predictable."

And a poem commentary:

we cannot live forever in that time
life refuses to indulge our memories
yet we know and we remember

so that grandchildren will be witnesses

to our stories